What does ESPN’s College Football GameDay coming to Minneapolis for the first time this weekend do for Richard Pitino and his men’s basketball team?
Pitino says the national attention surrounding the Gophers football team is inspiring for his program. P.J. Fleck has Minnesota one win away from the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis if it beats rival Wisconsin on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
“Obviously, what the football team has done is unbelievable,” Pitino said after Sunday’s 79-56 win against North Dakota. “In three years going to play to get the [Big Ten West Division title] outright against your rival is unbelievable. P.J. and his staff you watch them and you can tell what they’re trying to do. That shows a well-coached team. Not only do they have a lot of talent. Obviously, he’s recruited at a high level. But they’re very, very disciplined. They don’t do a lot of dumb things out there. That shows a well-coached team.”
The Gophers have never hosted ESPN’s basketball version of College GameDay at Williams Arena. The biggest game the program had recently was under Tubby Smith when No. 9 Minnesota lost 83-75 to No. 5 Michigan at the Barn on Jan. 17, 2013. Dick Vitale was in the house that night.
That was the last time the Gophers men’s basketball team was ranked in the top 10. Fleck’s team is 10-1 and ranked No. 9 this week in the Associated Press top 25 college football poll.
“For our basketball program we want to be bigger than something that’s just our sport,” Pitino added. “When you play for a state university you want all your sports to be really, really good. You want your fans to be excited. Obviously with basketball and football being two major sports they can co-exist and be really, really good together.”
Pitino's Gophers (3-3) bounced back from a three-game losing streak with wins vs. Central Michigan and North Dakota at home, but their biggest challenge so far will be Friday vs. DePaul at the Barn.